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As Money Is Cut, Nib ‘Doing Best We Can’

Public Services and National Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle.

Public Services and National Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle.

By LEANDRA ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

lrolle@tribunemedia.net 

Public Service and National Insurance Board Minister Brensil Rolle defended a reduction in unemployment benefits to $100 a week yesterday, insisting “We’re doing the best we can.”

He said: “We realise that it is not perhaps what individuals have been accustomed to or what they have been making but you got to also take into context that we’ve been doing this now for six months and we’ve been making payments to individuals for this period and we must be assured that basically we started (at) $200 a week and it has reduced to $150 and now it’s to $100.

“I hear the frustration as well from some individuals and I say we hear your cry and we know it’s tough, but we too are taking the position that we must do some things and one of the things we are doing is providing some form of income support to families that may be out of work.”

The board has paid out more than $160m in benefits and assistance cheques to unemployed workers directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with over $12m spent towards Hurricane Dorian victims to date.

Mr Rolle revealed the figures during his ministry’s press conference yesterday when he noted that the organisation’s total expenditure towards both Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19’s initiatives has amounted to $176m.

While giving a full breakdown of the payments expended by the agency, Mr Rolle said NIB has spent $91.6m in unemployment benefit payments to 37,000 beneficiaries since the onset of this pandemic.

As it relates to the government’s own unemployment benefit programme, he added that $56.1m has been spent towards that initiative so far to over 30,000 persons, with $15.6m paid out directly to self-employed people.

The programme, which has now been extended until December, will allow for recipients to receive $100 instead of $150 per week for a maximum of 13 weeks.

Many have since criticised the reduction in payments, noting the funds as being barely enough to purchase much needed supplies for people and their families.

Yesterday, Mr Rolle acknowledged the frustrations of Bahamians, but noted the government is doing all it can within the limited resources it has to provide as much help to those negatively affected by the health crisis.

According to Mr Rolle, over 7,000 Hurricane Dorian victims in Abaco and Grand Bahama received unemployment payments from NIB, amounting in total to $12.5m.

He added the programme was also funded by the government. Meanwhile, some $90m has been also paid in retirement benefits and grants for old age pensioners.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been numerous complaints over delayed payments from NIB, with some claiming they have yet to receive assistance from the agency.

Addressing the issues yesterday, Mr Rolle said some workers had not received the payments in a timely manner due to some employers’ failing to pay NIB contributions on behalf of their employees.

Yesterday, NIB director Dr Nicola Virgill-Rolle said the agency has established an aggressive position on the issue, adding that officials will go after employers who have failed to pay workers’ NIB contributions.

“We have made compliance and going after delinquent employers a very high priority at the board. We have developed new tools which allows management to understand and to see those customers which are delinquent and to be able to set up former billings for those customers,” she said.

“We have re-tooled our Inspectorate Department to really focus during this period where they are not doing onsite inspections or in delinquencies and so this is a very important aspect with the pandemic.”

“Every Bahamian has seen how important contribution compliance with the NIB contributions really is. We’ve had good support. Our inspectors have reached out to the delinquent employers in terms of bringing their accounts back up in order. But that will be a very high priority for us.”

Officials also cited verification issues as the reason why some claims were delayed.

“NIB found that notwithstanding public announcements, claimants were not verifying their continued unemployment and so claims that were processed in the V3 systems were being suspended,” Mr Rolle continued.

“NIB’s V3 system also suspended thousands of claims where it found contributions in the system past the reported last day of work. NIB’s IT and customer service departments worked to address this so legitimate claims could be paid directly.”

Comments

UN 3 days, 14 hours ago

The people of this country love being an unpleasant surprise (not people you want to associate with in any way). They don’t understand people make plans - they have no regard for that at all. I just wish ONE person would show integrity - tell this ‘nobody’ (who total strangers plan their worthless lives around) where her money is located. I have to struggle alongside my stalkers. Cold, selfish, heartless people (they have some fools thinking their persistent nosiness/acting familiar with strangers is friendliness but I know better).

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trueBahamian 3 days, 13 hours ago

NIB needs to do better with collecting contributions. Punishment has to be levied for those noncompliant. Although, people are looking for assistance, people have to understand the government can not sustain this assistance indefinitely. Minty isn't coming in as it was pre-pandemic, so money is tight.

The government, however, should manage the crisis better which will allow some businesses to stay open which will keep people employed. This will reduce some of the strain on the system.

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tribanon 3 days, 10 hours ago

Many still contributing to the NIB fund today will never get a penny back. There's a good reason why the government hasn't tabled independent audited financial statements of the NIB fund in recent years. I suspect it's the very same reason why no independent professional actuarial review of the NIB fund has been done in recent years to verify its solvency.

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Topdude 3 days, 7 hours ago

There Tribanon goes again with his negative view of everything. I am wondering why is it that he chooses to live in our country? It must be for some reason that cannot be found in any other land. Or is it that he is unable to live in any other nation.

The glass is have full. See the positive and look for the best. When last has he read the Bible. When last has he reviewed our nation’s history. We have come a long way in a short time.

Please be positive and see the good. Okay. Thanks.

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tribanon 3 days, 6 hours ago

I do at least get great laughs from die-hard Minnis supporters like yourself, which is truly the only positive thing our most incompetent PM has done for me since May 2017. LOL

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